Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Publishing: Print on Demand

In the arduous world of publishing, there are so many players involved that if you haven’t developed the testicular fortitude to keep up, you’ll find yourself eating the scraps. For neophytes in the non-fiction world, things are somewhat less daunting. In this field, knowing your topic (either professionally or through tangible experience) and providing proof and examples of stellar research are the essential keys for success. The market also tolerates non-fiction titles more simply because the books created generally fit into a particular niche of society.

The unpublished new-be in fiction (regardless of the genre) gets the sore end of the deal. As opposed to non-fiction experts, fiction writers are essentially gods, as they construct, manipulate and kill the people and objects of their story. Fiction writers create what (hopefully) no one else has imagined or created. New genres, distant lands, complex and borderline-believable characters…these are the “soup for the soul” for fiction writers. So what’s the big deal? Agents and publishers want proof…lots of it. With fiction, every concept is a gamble. You’re bringing something fresh to the table, that’s a requirement. Yet with this, the demi-god must also prove how this work will be distinguishable from the thousands of new titles churned out by publishers every year.

Solutions? Yes, there are a few. Some would- be authors believe they can by-pass the Brita of publishing (agents) and go straight to the editors. Friends, unless you’ve developed an aptitude for patience, marketing and the 6-pack abs for taking many hits in the gut (although this happens with agents as well), I recommend you take the most beaten path…manuscript, agent, publisher. But some writers don’t enjoy losing up to 15% of their royalties to agents and only making 10% before that’s even an issue. Some don’t want to give up the rights to their work, only to be spat on later when their book goes out of print.

Enter POD’s, or Print on Demand. Print on Demand companies were actually the first in printing back in the days of writing when you never saw a dime (or fame) until you died. Folks like Poe, Dickenson and Ben Franklin printed their own materials with the help of family and investors. Big business, however, changed all of that with the induction of the publishing houses. These companies took the hit, so to speak, in the arena of investing and creating of books. The down side to this, of course, was that the author lost his rights to the work and more often than not, made minimal royalties and was ignored in the process.

POD’s, with their dramatic comeback in the mid 90’s, purposed to change all that. Most of these companies looked to formulate a structure that bordered between vanity press and traditional publishing. Thus Print on Demand was born. These companies based most of their sales on an online ordering basis, creating an online bookstore for book enthusiasts.

“If the primary way you want to sell your print book is through book stores we’re not the company for you. No POD is,” say Angela and Richard Hoy, owners of Booklocker.com. “If you don’t like marketing your book, we are definitely the wrong company for you.”

When taking this route, you are the publisher…and you assume all of the weight that goes with it. While you enjoy greater involvement in the books development, higher royalties and retention of rights, you also bear the brunt of marketing and sales. Although your book will be listed on the ordering website, it is up to you, the author, to make people aware of its existence. Whether for laziness in waiting on agents and publishers, or by virtue of the entrepreneurial spirit, for a fee of $100 to $1600, people are more and more taking the self-publishing road…some with large success. Many fiction writers in this category use this mode as a vehicle to later show agents and publishers physical evidence of their book’s digestible intrigue. As for the lazy, don’t hold your breath.

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